In an age of ubiquitous social media, we now have a conduit for trumpeting what great things we have done in a way that is, ostensibly, much less obtrusive than trying to bring it up in person. Online, some have discovered, they can create a new identity or exaggerate select parts of their identity they want you to admire.
Ironically, though, people that embody goodness and kindness more than others were always unlikely to mention it – if they in fact were even cognizant of their kindness in the first place. It would often come so naturally, they indeed seemed unaware of it.
For me, unfortunately, it took tragedy to realize I had one of these people in my life all along.
My uncle, Brother Justin, is a Franciscan Friar. At the age of 19, in August of 1957, he took vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience – dedicating his life to service of his community via the church. He didn’t do it as a career or in the pursuit of recognition – he did it as a calling to quietly make the world a slightly better place in whatever way he was asked to.
The day after Mom was diagnosed as terminal, I went to go pick up Uncle, her brother, at the airport. I didn’t know what to say when he got in the car. Neither of us did; we were both scared and confused. A quiet unease blanketed the journey.
I’m a spiritual person, but have never found a home in a particular organized religion. Uncle, obviously, had committed his life to Catholicism about as much as you possibly could. I didn’t know what to expect when I opened the conversation with “Hey Uncle, you know I’ve never been much on religion… but I’m scared, and I feel like there’s something I should be doing now. Just, something”
His reply, which came instantly, I would never forget : “You’re taking care of your mother in her time of need. That is a ministry in and of itself. You don’t need to apologize for anything.”
That was bad ass. That was love, kindness, and acceptance without condition. Here was someone who had spent his entire life in dedication to a belief I had just admitted I was dubious about, and he simply validated what I was doing. There was no coercion, no condescension, and no correction.
Since he would never think to point out his grace and tolerance to the world, I’m doing it for him.
If you have a Brother Justin in your life, let them know you appreciate them – they might not seek the spotlight, but we can still shine it on them for a while.